The Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill was introduced for First Reading at the Parliamentary Sitting today (on 20 January 2014).
2 The riot in Little India on 8 December 2013 was the worst public order disturbance in Singapore in more than four decades, and resulted in substantial damage to emergency response and private vehicles, injuries to Police and Civil Defence officers who responded to the scene, and significant disruption to public order and sense of security.
3 In the immediate aftermath of the riot, a specific part of Little India was proclaimed as an area in a state of danger to public order under the Public Order (Preservation) Act. A series of measures was implemented and calibrated to restore calm and maintain public order in Little India. These included a ban on public consumption of alcohol and restriction on the sale of alcohol during certain times when there are large congregations of persons within the area. The private shuttle bus services ferrying migrant workers into the area on Sundays were also temporarily suspended and subsequently recalibrated with revised operating hours.
Proposed Features of the Bill
4 The Ministry of Home Affairs seeks to enact temporary legislation to provide Police with powers to continue to take calibrated measures to maintain public order and calm in Little India post-riot. The key features of the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill are:
a) The powers in the new legislation will apply in the area in Little India that has currently been proclaimed under the Public Order (Preservation) Act. This designated area will be termed a special zone.
b) There will be a general prohibition against the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol within this area. A permit regime will be introduced to allow such activities to be carried out under specific conditions.
c) It will be an offence to possess a prohibited item, such as weapon, substance or other things where possession of which (for any purpose) would constitute an offence under the law.1
d) Law enforcement officers will be given enhanced powers to deal pre-emptively and decisively with potential public order threats in the special zone. For instance, officers will be empowered to inspect and interview any persons who enter the special zone for alcohol or prohibited items. Officers will also have powers to exclude or ban persons from entering the special zone for specified durations if his presence or actions are likely to threaten public order.
e) There will be powers to allow the swift cancellation or suspension of any business licence of a licensee who commits or is reasonably suspected of contravening the law.
5. The new Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill is scoped more tightly compared to the wide-ranging powers that came into effect when the Public Order (Preservation) Act was invoked in the immediate aftermath of the riot. The new legislation provides only for the additional powers needed for the Police and other agencies to deal more effectively with the local issues within Little India for a period of up to one year. This will provide sufficient time for the Ministry to enact longer-term legislation to take into account the findings and recommendations of the COI, and recommendations arising from public consultations on the review of the liquor licensing regime.
6. More details will be made available at the Second Reading of the Bill.
1 Prohibited items means any weapon, substance or object under the Arms and Explosive Act, the Corrosive and Explosive Substances and Offensive Weapons Act, the Dangerous Fireworks Act or anythi